Every college student needs to find his or her niche on campus. During the fall semester, first-year students ought to find a small handful of activities or groups outside their immediate roommate/hallmates/established friend group. This is very important because having extracurricular activities will provide an expanded friend network, social outlets, and networking that can help introduce them to upperclassmen.
There will be a Student Involvement Fair on Wednesday, September 2nd from 3:30-5:30 pm that will be a wonderful way for your students to get a glimpse of all that is possible at Wake Forest. There are well over 150 student organizations at Wake Forest. Student organizations have tables on the Mag (aka Manchester) Quad with their group’s information, as well as a sign up sheet for an email distribution list. Students who sign up will get emails from that group and can be apprised of invitations and events.
I have heard from past students who signed up for way too many email distro lists and then got overwhelmed with all the emails, so here is the advice I gave my freshmen advisees: walk one complete lap around all the tables and see all of the offerings before you sign up for anything. Then on your second lap around, pick 3-5 or 4-6 or whatever seems manageable to you, and sign up just for those.
So what sort of things can students do to get involved?
Pro Humanitate is our school motto, and it means ‘for humanity.’ Many of our students express their Pro Humanitate through acts of service and volunteerism. We have a very active Pro Humanitate Institute that helps connect students to volunteer opportunities. The student portion of the PHI web site allows students to look at volunteer opportunities by service area. In addition to local volunteering, there are some alternative spring break trips and international service programs that are incredibly powerful experiences for those who participate. Campus Kitchen is a meal prep and delivery program that brings food to the needy, and is a great outlet for students.
For our sporty Deacs, there is a whole host of Campus Recreation options. From club sports to intramurals to outdoor pursuits like hiking, students can continue playing a favorite sport or learn a new one. If your student isn’t into playing sports but enjoys watching them, being part of the Screamin’ Demons student rooting section can provide great tickets and tons of new friends and acquaintances.
Student Union offers a wide range of campus programming. They have Tuesday Trivia in Shorty’s, “Short Courses” which typically last a couple of hours on topics ranging from Italian cooking to pumpkin carving, movies on the weekends, and more. They are always looking for volunteers on committees, so if there was one that interests your student, encourage him or her to email the chair and get involved.
For students who want to practice their faith – or explore new ones – there are a wide variety of denominational groups on campus through Campus Ministry. There are opportunities for worship, service, and spiritual mentoring. Groups always welcome new members and visitors!
The arts are alive and well on Wake Forest’s campus. Students can get involved by trying out for a campus play, auditioning for a musical performing group, or simply by attending some of the concerts, plays and shows on campus, either through the Department of Theatre and Dance or the Secrest Artists Series. Your student may not realize that one of his classmates also likes opera, or theatre until he attends a play and sees people he knows in the audience – which can lead to a new conversation starter and the beginning of a friendship.
There are a couple of big campuswide events your students can look for later in the semester. One is Hit the Bricks, where students form teams and run laps around the Quad all day to raise money for cancer research in honor of our fallen football hero and alumnus Brian Piccolo (you may remember his story from the movie “Brian’s Song.”) We also have Project Pumpkin, where students host a carnival and trick-or-treating for local children. Your Deacs can look for advertisements about those events on campus or on their respective web sites.
The Campus Life web site is teeming with options – from leadership to service and more. Remind your student to explore all the options available. We know that students who get involved in a couple of meaningful campus activities and broaden their social horizons tend to build a very strong network of support. That bodes well for a happy fall semester!
And if you are concerned that your student isn’t getting involved, Campus Life has a terrific mentoring program called First Year In Focus (FYIF) that will go live closer to mid- to late-September (more details to come on the Parents’ Page). FYIF is a peer mentoring program that matches a first year student (male or female) with an upperclass student to assist in their social, personal and academic transition to Wake Forest. The program is relationally-based with the mentor and mentee meeting informally every 2 weeks to help with navigating the campus culture, connecting with resources and finding a niche on campus. You can also contact the Parent Programs office at firstname.lastname@example.org for some individual guidance on how best to direct your student to areas of activity that might be fulfilling.
The bottom line is this: students who are engaged in campus life in ways that are meaningful to them tend to have better experiences than students who don’t find a niche. Urge your freshmen to come to the Student Involvement Fair and find some activities and some new friends!